WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State James A. Baker III said last night that there is now a greater international willingness to consider the prospect of war with Iraq than he expected a week ago.
Nearing completion of 10 days of meetings in New York with counterparts from numerous countries on the Persian Gulf crisis, Mr. Baker declined to speculate on whether there would be broad participation in military action against Iraq if economic sanctions fail. But he said, "I think that there's more of a willingness to consider some sort of an approach like that if it became necessary at the appropriate time than we had anticipated there might be at this stage of the conflict."
Asked whether he was referring to a U.N.-sanctioned use of force, he repeated, "It seems that there's a greater willingness to consider something like that than one might have expected a week ago coming into these meetings."
Mr. Baker made clear that despite the hope for a diplomatic solution to the gulf crisis expressed by President Bush in his address Monday to the United Nations, the United States is continuing to explore with other countries the possible use of force and has discussed approaches through the United Nations.
In imposing an air embargo against Iraq last week, the U.N. Security Council warned implicitly of possible military action.
At a news conference in New York, monitored here, Mr. Baker announced that the United States and Israel had reached an agreement that would free up $400 million in U.S. housing loan guarantees to assist the settlement of Soviet Jews in Israel.
The United States had sought assurances that the aid would not be used to increase Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israel assured the United States that immigrants would not be settled beyond the "green line" marking the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem and that it would provide the United States with information about how it was financing settlements and "settlement activity generally by the government of Israel."
In addition, Mr. Baker said, "There will be a recognition that there are no special incentives to encourage people to settle outside the green line and that none are planned," as well as a general assurance that the funding would not be used in the territories.
Israeli officials said the agreement would enable Israel to raise commercial loans at favorable rates backed by a guarantee from the U.S. Treasury. It did not involve any transfer of U.S. government funds.